A Nordic-Soviet programme was initiated in 1990 to evaluate the external and internal radiation exposure of the inhabitants of several villages in the Bryansk region of Russia. This area was one of the number of areas particularly affected by the nuclear accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in 1986. Measurements were carried out yearly until 1998 and after that more irregularly; in 2000, 2006 and 2008 respectively. The effective dose estimates were based on individual thermoluminescent dosemeters and on in vivo measurements of the whole body content of (137)Cs (and (134)Cs during the first years of the programme). The decrease in total effective dose during the almost 2 decade follow-up was due to a continuous decrease in the dominating external exposure and a less decreasing but highly variable exposure from internal irradiation. In 2008, the observed average effective dose (i.e. the sum of external and internal exposure) from Chernobyl (137)Cs to the residents was estimated to be 0.3mSv y(-1). This corresponds to 8% of the estimated annual dose in 1990 and to 1% of the estimated annual dose in 1986. As a mean for the population group and for the period of the present study (2006-2008), the average yearly effective dose from Chernobyl cesium was comparable to the absorbed dose obtained annually from external exposure to cosmic radiation plus internal exposure to naturally occurring radionuclides in the human body. Our data indicate that the effective dose from internal exposure is becoming increasingly important as the body burdens of Chernobyl (137)Cs are decreasing more slowly than the external exposure. However, over the years there have been large individual variations in both the external and internal effective doses, as well as differences between the villages investigated. These variations and differences are presented and discussed in this paper.
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